Posted by: Brad Nixon | November 9, 2016

Details Matter: Venice and Verona


The Little Things

When one has leisure to see a place for more than a few hours, a couple of days, there’s time to look, inquire and discover details that make a place more than an itinerary of museums, monuments and memorable meals.


One of Italy’s notable piazzas is the Piazza delle Erbe in Verona. I wrote about it and posted a photo in a previous post, HERE.

In about the center of the long northeast side of the piazza is the Arco della Costa.


That object hanging from the arch is a whale rib. How it came to be hung there is open to question. Wikipedia suggests it may have been the trade symbol of spice merchants, and seems to have been there since the 1400s. What’s interesting is that a legend associated with it says the rib will hang there and only fall when a person who has never told a lie walks under it. Obviously, it hasn’t happened in 600 years. Draw your own conclusions.

Just across the Adige river, the Castel San Pietro stands above the old Roman amphitheater, looking out over Verona.


There are wonderful views of the city from there. This view includes the ancient Roman Ponte Pietra, a portion of which has stood since 100 B.C.


Most of the existing Castel San Pietro originated in 1393 as the headquarters of a military commander, although there has been a structure on the site since the Iron Age. There’s an interior colonnade around an open space, and the tympani of the arches have a variety of bas-relief sculptures, including this appealing one that reminds us cute animals were popular long before there was a World Wide Web on which to post photos. In this case, rabbits:


You simply have to look around.


One of the world capitals of mind-boggling, overwhelming detail is Venice. If one human being in history has seen every square inch of every space and surface in the city that’s decorated with some interesting detail, I’d like to meet them. It’s difficult to focus on the minutiae, because the large view of Venice is so compelling, and there’s always another ancient palazzo, square or historic structure beckoning you to keep moving to another page of your guidebook.

That astute observer, The Counselor, is always captivated by the decorations tucked into niches, under eaves or above doors and windows. Here she is in a narrow calle in Venice, photographing a statue.


Yes, it was trash collection day in that Venetian neighborhood. Another detail. Life goes on.

Due to all the iconic must-sees in Venice, not every visitor has the time to wander the quarter mile from St. Mark’s Square to the place that, in a sense, represents the core of the Venetian Republic’s historic might: the Arsenal. In those shipyards, beginning early in the 12th Century, Venetian shipwrights built the fleets that dominated commerce and projected military might across the Adriatic and into the Mediterranean. The formal entrance of the Arsenal is the Porta Magna.


It was designed by Jacopo Bellini and built around 1460. You probably know that the Lion, symbol of the city’s patron saint, Mark, is also the symbol of Venice. The Great Gate is replete with lions, not all of them visible in that view.

Look at another portion of the gate to find a common item from a day before mechanical clocks arrived on the scene.


Rather, that’s what I thought until I caught the dedication to Victor Emmanuel III, who was king from 1900 to 1949. Still, it’s one more picturesque Venetian detail. My Latin is rusty, but I believe that ruit hora labora means something like “We rush to our labor.” Perhaps an admonition to the shipyard workers to be on time. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong.

One of my favorite recondite details from La Serenissima is the following, a bas-relief carving on some anonymous building.


A hedgehog.

Vast palaces, extensive piazzas, mighty fortifications and ancient monuments all have their place in the traveler’s itinerary, but so do the humble things.

© Brad Nixon 2016, 2018



  1. Great blog and sentiments, as usual!


  2. Thank you for your positive and refreshing thoughts. Here’s to being mindful of our world’s wonderful details and a force for good wherever we live and travel.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re welcome. Thank you, partner.


  3. A pleasant memoir in some unpleasant times. Thanks for sharing some of the world’s beautiful things.


  4. Thank you for the positivity, and the beautiful photos. I’ve posted about Verona this week too, what a magnificent place.

    Liked by 1 person

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